Yes, it’s a bit gross to be like this, but I’ve always preferred the original NieR game to Automata. But I’ve never actually returned to it since its release, and always knew it would be a mechanically inferior game to PlatinumGames’ 2017 sequel. I was right – but that’s what makes the prospect of NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… so exciting.
But what’s with the name? It’s the square root of 1.5, which is all you need to know about the game. It’s a remake of the first game but could also serve as a stopgap between the sequel if rumours are to be believed. Regardless of what it ends up being, I’ve been fortunate enough to have spent some time with NieR Replicant’s reimagined scenarios from the original game, and it’s encouraging to see how it updates the original formula.
The preview begins with one of the earlier dungeons of the game. It’s called the Junk Heap, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. A maze-like, industrial area that’s been overrun by rogue robots. It’s perhaps the most fitting part of the game to preview first – given its themes and how they mimic some aspects of Automata – but it’s only a glimpse of what Replicant has to offer. In this part of the game, Nier arrives and must help two brothers mine resources from the area in order to upgrade his weapons.
The most obvious thing you’ll notice when you start playing as Nier is that he’s much faster and responsive to control now. More in line with 2B, 9S, and A2 from Automata, the combat has similarly been updated to be more in line with more modern action games. It’s not got as much depth as games like Devil May Cry, but it’s a stark improvement that brings the experience closer to Automata. Even better, you can now move while charging your magic attacks, breaking open more potential to rack up combos.
Other things aren’t immediately obvious, but just as welcome. Much of the dialogue is fully voiced now wherein the original game it was just text-based. It seems like something small to appreciate at face value, but considering that some remasters wouldn’t even bother to cast and voice some of these roles, it’s a welcome change. Similarly, the music has been rearranged – adding depth to every track to the point where each piece of music feels enhanced rather than replaced. The original NieR’s music is, to this day, some of my favourite music in a video game and it’s nice to see it’s intact here.
Edging through the Junk Heap, I was surprised at just how similar Replicant was to the original game in terms of content. For the most part, the general structure of the game doesn’t seem to have changed that much. When I got to the boss battle with Geppetto, a malfunctioning defense system robot, I noticed that things were a little bit different. The boss himself was the same, but he definitely seemed to attack more aggressively and erratically, providing more of a challenge to this faster and more capable Nier. It feels like a change that needed to happen, else the game would become too easy and is appreciated.
Once that battle is over, there’s a nice little story moment to wrap everything up before Nier and his sentient magical tome, Grimoire Weiss, are on their way.
We then skip ahead to a boss battle in The Aerie. One of the more memorable locations from the original game, The Aerie is a town built both on the edges of and inside of a great windy valley. It’s also the first place where our second major companion, the foul-mouthed Kainé, was born. In this segment, we discover that the village hates Kainé for some reason, though she doesn’t seem to care about it either. Nonetheless, the team aids the village by defending it against a monstrous shade that keen fans will know as Hook.
Hook is one of the earlier battles that does what NieR does best – combining bullet hell style moments and character action to offer up something truly genre-bending. Hook is a giant lizard-like boss, and he not only crawls around on all fours but also has a gigantic hand on his back that he uses to lift and throw pieces of the environment at you. At random intervals, he’ll also vomit eggs that spit energy balls at you. It’s all you want from a good game honestly and it’s tough to fault the battle. There are even points where the action switches to a side-scrolling platformer style of play, which breaks things up a bit.
But what’s a little bit more controversial, as with most remakes, is the art direction. NieR Replicant has been updated to run in 60 frames per second and most of the environments have been updated with great detail to better sell the morose world the game takes place in. It all looks great and still looks recognisable, but some might take issue with how the game looks. Kainé has been given a more perfect, almost porcelain-like complexion which betrays the rough nature of the character. Similarly, The Aerie has lost the fog that penetrates its eerie vista. There’s more detail, which is great, but it does feel a little bit too clean and perfect for a game as melancholy as NieR.
All in all, NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… is shaping up to be a very faithful remake in almost every aspect. It updates the combat into something resembling more modern action games, like NieR Automata, without betraying the spirit of the original. The boss fights are still great fun, the story is as bizarre and memorable as ever and I just can’t wait to see the rest of this kooky story play out in the final game. There’s bound to be a discussion about the art direction and whether it captures the spirit of the original, however, but that’s really up to the fans to decide when NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… launches next month.
NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… launches on 23rd April 2021. It’s releasing for PC, Playstation 4, and Xbox One.